The Washington Post is out with a lengthy story critical about evangelical leader Franklin Graham's advice to a woman accusing her husband of physical abuse. Religion reporter Sarah Pulliam Bailey draws a parallel between this and a controversy from a few years ago, when a Southern Baptist leader tried to persuade an abused woman to return to her husband. The new incident involves Iranian immigrant Naghmeh Panahi, whose "experience with Graham offers another rare glimpse into how a towering figure in American religious life reacted to an abuse claim." As Bailey reports, Panahi and Graham struck up a friendship in 2013 after Panahi's husband, Saeed Abedini, was imprisoned during a trip to Iran. Graham became a strong advocate for Panahi as she publicly crusaded for her husband's release.
However, their relationship abruptly ended in 2015, after Panahi had a change of heart about her husband (still imprisoned at the time) and said he had physically and emotionally abused her all through the marriage. Graham called her when he heard the allegations. “Naghmeh, are you cheating on him?” he asked, and Graham confirms the exchange to the Post. “It was a good question to ask,” he says, “and I would have asked it again.” The story includes a recorded conversation between the two in which he calls abuse a "gray area" as she repeatedly tells him her husband beat her. (Abedini, now free and living somewhere in the Mideast, has denied the allegations.) Panahi has begun speaking publicly about her ties to Graham, and she has advice for women in abusive relationships: "Don't go through the church." (Read the full story.)